Sciatica and Leg Pain

Sciatica is a term that describes pain in the distribution of the sciatic nerve. The pain may extend from the buttock into the leg and radiate below the knee to the foot.

Sciatica may result from a variety of conditions but is usually due to the compression or irritation of the lumbar nerve roots.

Pain usually results from a disc protrusion or rupture, where disc material reduces the capacity of the spinal canal and results in the compression of a lumbar nerve root.

Disc bulges are a common finding on either a CT or MRI scan and may not always be the cause of your leg or back pain.

In the majority of cases (80%), symptoms of sciatica will settle spontaneously within a six week period, and treatment is initially directed towards reducing pain to enable the patient to keep active both at work and at home.

When sciatica due to a disc protrusion does resolve there is a 25 to 50% chance that symptoms will return in the first year. Even if this should occur there is still a 90% chance that symptoms will again resolve within twelve weeks. As a result of the natural history people with sciatica rarely require surgery.